Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
The Brady Bunch
Currently Known For:
Retired Actor, Decorative Concrete and Countertop Artisan
The Brady Bunch
“The Brady family was what everyone wanted their family to be like.” Getting his start as a television actor in the 1960s, Mike Lookinland was only nine years old when he caught the biggest break of his career and was cast as Bobby Brady on the ABC family sitcom, The Brady Bunch. Spending five years on the series, Lookinland skyrocketed to fame and grew up with the world watching as he went on to reprise his role as the youngest Brady on spinoff series, films, and television specials like The Brady Kids, The Brady Bunch Hour, The Brady Girls Get Married, A Very Brady Christmas, and The Bradys. Amid his success on television, Lookinland quietly struggled with alcoholism until a career change after 20 years in film production took him as far away from Hollywood as he could get with his new career as a decorative concrete and countertop artisan in Salt Lake City, Utah. But, how exactly did Lookinland go from child star and production assistant to recovering alcoholic and retired actor? What does he think about the rumors and rivalries between his former costars and will he ever write a tell-all book about his Brady Bunch past? We’ll answer these questions and more as we take a look at Lookinland’s career in and out of the Hollywood spotlight.
“From the age of eight, I learned that nothing in the entertainment industry is real. It’s all fake. Your face, your clothes, what you say—it’s all a fake.” Michael Paul Lookinland came into this world on December 19 ,1960 in the small town of Mount Pleasant, Utah, which is located 80 miles from the bustling town of Salt Lake City. Raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lookinland grew up alongside his older sister, Terese, and his younger brother, Todd, the latter of whom starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in The Blue Bird. According to Lookinland, the brothers’ involvement in acting was a huge stroke of luck after someone with ties to the movie business saw a picture of the Lookinland children on his father’s desk at work. “He told him he had cute kids and he should get them in the movie business,” Lookinland said. “After some coaxing, my parents got an agent and they sent us on, basically, job interviews.”
Lookinland didn’t have to wait long as he made his way into show business and snagged his first few gigs in a string of television commercials before he auditioned for a part in a new series by Gilligan’s Island creator Sherwood Schwartz titled The Brady Bunch. Although Lookinland had strawberry blonde hair that didn’t match the rest of the cast—Robert Reed (Mike Brady), Barry Williams (Greg Brady), or Christopher Knight (Peter Brady)—the network instantly fell in love with the youngster for the part of Bobby Brady, the youngest of the Brady brood. Instead of continuing the search for Bobby, Schwartz cast Lookinland as Bobby with permission from Lookinland’s parents to dye his hair brown for the series. Coincidentally, the makeup crew not only dyed his hair but straightened it as well to match his brothers, Peter and Greg, for the first three seasons of the show. That’s when Lookinland quickly realized that not much on television was real.
“If you had freckles and red hair in 1968, you would get work,” Lookinland said. “But Bobby didn’t have red hair, he had black hair. They dyed my hair black for the show, which was odd at the time. It was a strange experience, but it was fun to have the other kids there… We weren’t just young, we were the only young ones in that environment. Everyone else was an adult doing their job in this studio. We were the only children there, so that created an even tighter bond.”
While on the series, Lookinland quickly made friends with the rest of the cast, especially his on-screen sister Susan Olsen. The Brady Bunch youngsters formed a fast friendship that transformed into something more after their first season on the set. “We led a sheltered life for part of the year, so if there was anybody to get a crush on or try to date, it would be our counterparts,” Olsen said. “So, I had Mike Lookinland and we used to make out in the doghouse when we were nine.” Barry Williams, who played the oldest Brady sibling, confirmed the rumor and revealed that he often caught Mike and Susan making out in Tiger’s doghouse! The crush, however, didn’t last long as Lookinland started to take notice of other girls on the set—like his older sisters Eve Plumb and Maureen McCormick.
Beyond his behind the scenes make-out sessions and on-set crushes, Lookinland had plenty of chances to build his portfolio while on The Brady Bunch and appeared alongside his costars in several specials including The Brady Bunch Meets ABC’s Saturday Superstars, The Brady Kids, and The World of Sid & Marty Krofft at the Hollywood Bowl. He also snagged a few minor roles and guest appearances in The Point! (1971), The Boy from Dead Man’s Bayou (1971), Funny Face (1971) and Dead Men Tell No Tales (1971).
After The Brady Bunch was canceled in 1974 and picked up for syndication in 1975, Lookinland was still riding the heels of his early success when he landed a role in the 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno starring Jennifer Jones and Paul Newman. He followed up with an appearance in the live-action superhero television series titled The Secrets of Isis and later reprised his role as Bobby Brady in numerous reunion specials and spinoffs including The Brady Bunch Hour (1976-77), The Brady Girls Get Married (1981), A Very Brady Christmas (1988), and The Bradys (1990).
In between projects and reprising his role in Brady Bunch specials, Lookinland returned to “normal life” and graduated from the Chadwick School in Southern California in 1978. By then, his childhood fame had fizzled as he enrolled at the University of Utah to study film and later turned to alcohol and drugs to cope with the harsh reality of his dwindling childhood fame. “I did drugs for a while. I went through a lot of things,” he said. “To have that much fame when you’re really young, it certainly affects you. The problem for me was I lived my childhood in my 20s. You should really try to live your childhood when you’re a child because if you do it when you’re 26, it can be dangerous… I loved alcohol. The first time I had a drink, oh boy, I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. When it became clear that the choice wasn’t between sobering up or drinking, but the choice was actually between living or dying, then it became a simple choice for me.”
What truly helped Lookinland get sober was meeting his wife, script supervisor Kelly Wermuth who was known for her work on Touched By An Angel. The college sweethearts met at a party and, for Lookinland, it was love at first sight. “We were at a party and were both going to the University of Utah at the time. I left that party and I said, ‘Ok, that’s the girl I’m going to marry.’ And I did,” Lookinland says. Marrying in 1987, Lookinland became a father for the first time in 1990 with the birth of his son, Scott, and then welcomed his second son, Joe, into the world in 1993. Fatherhood gave Lookinland two more reasons to stay sober as he found his passion in the industry—working behind the scenes as a camera operator and production assistant. “After college, I went back into film production…I’m a production assistant with Rocky Mountain Pictures with an eye on becoming a director of photography,” Lookinland said during an interview in the late 1990s.
Throughout the new millennium, the former Brady Bunch star saw his career ambitions come true as he worked on several projects like Halloween 5 (1989), Fast Getaway (1991), Parallel Lives (1994), Roswell (1994), Gambler V: Playing for Keeps (1994), The Stand (1994), Just a Dream (2002), and The Maldonado Miracle (2003). In 2000, his work truly came full circle when he joined his son, Scott, in the television film Growing Up Brady where Scott played a younger version of his father on The Brady Bunch set!Making a Change – Setting a New Career Path
“We’re artisans, we make fancy things out of concrete, like countertops, fireplaces, and outdoor kitchens.” Despite finding his niche behind the scenes, Lookinland made another huge career change in the mid-2000s after his wife brought home a library book that caught his attention. “The title of the book was How to Make Concrete Countertops,” Lookinland recalled. “I said, ‘Honey, I’m quitting my job. I’m going to make concrete countertops for a living.’” By then, Lookinland had reached the highest level of skill behind the scenes and had little to lose, which only made his decision even easier. He tapped into his creativity and launched his own company in Salt Lake City, Utah where he specializes in creating decorative concrete countertops. For Lookinland, the move doesn’t seem as outrageous as many believe. “I have had the occasion to meet child actors from the 1960s and 1970s at various functions, and everyone’s gone on to various different lives—they’re real estate agents or surfers,” Lookinland says. “Without The Brady Bunch, my guess is I would have become an engineer working on new plastics or something.”
For Lookinland, making decorative concrete countertops gives him an artistic outlet that is also permanent, something entirely different from his childhood stardom that quickly fizzled. “It’s artistic and it’s rewarding and it’s permanent,” he told Oprah Winfrey during the Where Are They Now? special. “The beauty of the concrete comes from the fact that it will take the shape of any mold that we can make… from the age of eight, I learned that nothing in the entertainment industry is real. It’s all fake. Your face, your clothes, what you say—it’s all fake. I was drawn to something more real that I could do myself.”
While Lookinland is proud that he’s no longer entrenched in Hollywood, that doesn’t stop him from attending fan conventions or giving The Brady Bunch its well-deserved praise. “We do talk a lot about my past and my impression of things and how it relates to what we’re doing now,” Lookinland says. “The Brady Bunch, in its heyday, was really the genesis of when television started to become the force that it is today.” Of course, Lookinland doesn’t busy himself with any gossip or rivalries form his former costars nor does he plan on writing a tell-all like Maureen McCormick or Barry Williams. That’s simply not his style.
“I think if there are any rivalries or hard feelings, they came much later—people publishing things in books that maybe others didn’t take kindle too, kiss and tell stories,” Lookinland shared during an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald in 2015. “We didn’t really bicker, that I recall, during the production of the show, but there’s some animosity in 2015 that I’m aware of. I don’t join in. I like everyone.”
Lookinland certainly loves his former costars and, while The Brady Bunch may have taken away any chance for a typical childhood, the 57-year-old doesn’t seem to have any regrets especially not since he’s ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Kid Stars of All Time. As for whether or not he has ever tuned in to the iconic series, he admits that he’s not a huge fan. “I don’t watch the show much,” he says. “I never stay home to see it, not the way I do with The Simpsons.”